Bullying is nothing new. The big kid on the playground pushing the little kids around, or making fun of the “nerdy” kids, isn’t a fresh phenomenon. It has happened for decades. Although it may seem like something that children grow out of as they mature into adults, it is anything but a temporary phase of life.
For some, the consequences of bullying can be everlasting—even life-ending. Luckily, the law provides remedies both criminally and civilly.
As far as childhood, approximately 3.2 million students a year are victims of bulling. In fact, it can become so overbearing and mentally defeating that 1 in 10 students drops out of school due to bullying.
However, bullying extends past childhood and even infiltrates adulthood. Adult bullying occurs just as often as the bullying between children. One of the most recent cases infiltrated the NFL.
On the Miami Dolphins roster, bullying became so pervasive and extreme that a man being paid millions of dollars a year to be there was no longer willing to bear the consequences of bullying. Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin became so afflicted with the emotional torment and anguish of bullying that he left the team and sought mental health counseling.
At the helm of the bullying is Richie Incognito, another Dolphins player infamous for his antics. By the time the NFL and coaches recognized Incognito’s bullying, it was too late; the severe emotional damage to Martin had been done.
While rash pundits such as Rush Limbaugh have claimed that Jonathan Martin and bullying victims should just “man up,” putting up with the constant emotional abuse of bullying is anything but easy for victims to handle.
People such as Limbaugh would have victims just ignore the bullying and the constant taunting. So, let us look at another case of bullying with worse consequences: Megan Meier.
Megan Meier was a 13-year old girl here in Missouri. She became the target of an onslaught of bullying through social networking sites. Meier was targeted by a neighborhood mother and her daughter acting under a fake screen name. The bullying went so far and was so emotionally damaging to Megan that it led to her taking her own life. The bullies characterized it as simply a “joke,” but clearly to Megan, and those who lost Megan as part of their life, it was anything but something to laugh about. Instead, it was something that became an extreme source of emotional distress—eventually causing a girl’s suicide and, for one family, the loss of a daughter.
While bullying can at times lead to consequences as serious as suicide, it can also cause large amounts of emotional distress for the victims, followed by years of mental health counseling.
In response to bullying and cyber-bullying, many states have enacted statutes that cover harassment of individuals and have included harassment through electronic devices (computers, phones, etc.). Fortunately, the legal remedies do not stop there for bullies. The civil system provides for intentional infliction of emotional distress as a claim that can be used to combat bullying its effects. Bullying is an intentional act specifically meant to torment the victim, making it a perfect fit when bullying goes so far as to cause emotional damage to the victim, as it so often does.
The problem is bullying often goes unnoticed by those who have the power to stop it. Often times, victims suffer in silence until finally someone recognizes it enough to provide support, help, or even therapy.
Victims of bullying need an advocate. There should be someone who is willing to stand by a victim of bullying and fight back against their tormentor, but go about it the right way. One of those ways is through the legal system, having a strong attorney as an advocate. Attorneys can make sure the bullies suffer the legal consequences of their actions and can also help victims seek the counseling they need to deal with the harmful effects of bullying.
Attorneys can make sure the victim gets to fight back.